It’s indisputable that doing a good deed brings a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. We can get into the age-old adage on whether a good deed is truly an altruistic act, or we can directly attest to the fact that mutual benefit in no way diminishes the profound effects good deeds have.
So what qualifies as being good? A lot of the definition is subjective, but many seem to agree that kindness, generosity, respect, and forgiveness may fall into the traditional definition of “righteousness.” It may preclude having a secure moral ground and a decent model for the act of “good.” It may also just boil down to practice and attempting to place yourself into the shadow momentarily in order to raise another thing or being to a level that supersedes your existence.
What it boils down to is the fact that good and kind actions have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing:
- Kind people tend to have longer lives. This idea is tied to the finding that kindness makes us happier, reducing depression and anxiety. In fact, we can go as far as saying that kindness CAUSES us to be happier- this is a pretty strong argument for benevolence. (Journal of Happiness Studies) (The Journal of Social Psychology)
- Altruistic giving produces a “helpers’ high.” This is a set of distinct physical sensations such as feeling a rush of energy followed by calm and increased sense of self-worth.
- Compassion increases your productivity. The case “time is money” may be valid, but so is the argument that time invested in volunteering boosts your own success at work.
We can all benefit from being a little nicer and more invested in being good. It sounds like being consistently good and kind is unrealistic, especially when you’re getting shoved left and right on a crowded subway. However, devoting a portion of your day to kindness trains your “good” muscle until you can maintain your positive outlook for longer periods of time.
How do you become “good”? Use the following few tips as a starting point:
- Define what being good means to you. We already laid the groundwork, but you might have a different idea of what good looks like. Consequently, you might find some of the acts of good might not be as effective in providing you the happiness if you’re not finding them fulfilling. Think about what provides you with a sense of purpose and do that. This approach relieves any obligation to be good by others’ definitions, but in no way diminishes the value of your actions.
- Balance your obligation to being good and kind with your sensibilities. Kindness should not be mistaken for weakness, and you should not succumb to abuse. You are not a doormat to be walked over.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. Too often we judge people by how they look, what they wear, how they behave. Each person has a story. If we judge people by how they look, we might as well judge people by how they paint an abstract. We have no basis to the story without knowing the artist. Greet each person as if they’re kindhearted as well. People often have walls up as a result of being hurt in some fashion. By acting with kindness, you’ll allow them to let their guard down and accept you into their life.
- Don’t wait for others to be good to you, take the first step!
- Learn the value of forgiveness.
- Celebrate others’ good qualities and achievements. It’s natural to feel slightly jealous sometimes, but envy to the point of personal disappointment not only doesn’t help anyone, it ultimately hurts you. Stay aware of your feelings toward others and their achievements, and recognize their value and hard work.
- Set a goal to do one kind thing for someone else. Give a small contribution to charity, walk a local shelter dog, or volunteer to tutor kids after school whose parents might be struggling day to day. Find your own ways to give, whether it’s with your time or physical contributions.
- Try smiling at a stranger or your barista at least once a day! The happiness is contagious, and your positive vibe will spread some joy unto others.
- Treat others with respect!
Photo: The Observer